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How to get more out of Twitter?
You've ventured to the big smoke. Standing on the platform waiting for a tube train, your heart sinks as you realise the train now arriving is full to bursting with passengers. You feel overwhelmed and you want to run away (well I do anyway).

If Twitter gives you that same feeling of overload and anxiety then then this article will help you reduce the stress and give you clear direction.

Quick definition
Twitter is a micro blogging platform where short messages are posted to the public twittersphere. You can see messages from anyone on Twitter but you also aim to attract followers and follow those that fit your audience profile. You can also upload photos to Twitter and longer messages if necessary.

Step 1: How do you make sense of all that information?
You may have looked at Twitter and seen random streams of information that make no sense. Help is at hand. Free tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite (there are others), allow you to organise information by topics or followers. These tools also integrate Facebook and Linked In and other applications, providing you with one master dash board where you can manage your social media posting. This will save you enormous amounts of time. Hootsuite is particularly good if you are managing multiple accounts or have a team of people all using Twitter.

Action Point: download Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

Step 2: Why are you on Twitter?
As with any new tool, you need to be clear on why you're using it. I first got into using Twitter for research but there are many possible uses:
industry research - finding out what's going on in your industry
lobbying - connection with and influencing key decision makers
PR - connecting with key journalists
market research - finding out more about your customers
building prospects list - connecting with potential customers
customer feedback - actively seeking opinions, comment and ways to improve
customer service - resolving complaints
building a community - bringing like minded people together
building your email list - converting followers to friends
product research/testing - offering samples

What's your reason?
You might have more than one. You would use Twitter differently for say, industry research and customer service.

Action Point: Get your Twitter strategies down on paper and head it with your objective from the above list. One objective per strategy.

Step 3: Make it easier
Many micro business owners are not chained to a desk all day. If this is you then you have a very good justification for getting yourself a smart phone. It can become an invaluable business tool. Not only can you get your emails (connection permitting) but there are any number of applications that can help your business day. Farm advisers are using compasses on smart phones and increasingly companies are realising that their customers use smart phones. So isn't it time to consider how they might help your business?

Using Twitter for business is so much easier if you can do it on the move. You can check in during lulls in trade at markets, while attending events, conferences or training and during breaks in production.
You can take photos and upload them during events, workshops or festivals.
Being away from your computer, tends to encourage more spontaneous interactions.
If you use Facebook, updating from a smart phone is so much easier.

Action Point: Talk nicely to your mobile phone provider about upgrading you to a smart phone.

Step 4: Form a manageable Twitter habit.
There are two aspects to using Twitter:
1. learning how to use Twitter
2. using Twitter
If you accept that you're never going to learn about something unless you allocate some time, I recommend the following programme.

Learning Twitter
20 minutes a day for 2 weeks will give you a better than average knowledge of Twitter tools. Take one task each day e.g. setting up Tweetdeck, learning about groups, learning about advance searches etc. This is far more than most people do. The easiest way to learn is search in the application's Help section or in Google e.g. 'How do I do searches in Tweetdeck?'. You can even tweet questions. Rather than feel overwhelmed by all the randomness of Twitter you will soon be eagerly helping friends and colleagues.

Using Twitter
Little and often is the best policy here. Go on twice or three times a day for just 5 minutes or so. It's good if you can build this into the end of work or leisure periods e.g. run up to lunch, during adverts in TV programmes, during natural lulls in production. This is just enough time, to check in and bookmark anything you want to read later.

Action Point: Decide on a manageable Twitter habit and set times when you're going to learn/use it.

Step 5: What to tweet (post)
Follow the suggestions when you set up your Twitter account to get some followers and get ideas by first looking at how others use Twitter. Twitter always offers you suggestions of who to follow, so keep investigating those connections and slowly build your list.

As a rule of thumb, you can break the purpose of individual tweets down into the following:
helping your friends
entertaining your friends
enlightening your friends
connecting friends with other friends
promoting your friends' interests
promoting your interests

Another way of thinking about this is:
sharing information with your community
asking and answering questions

Types of tweets
Remember what you tweet will depend on your objectives above.
post links to articles or web pages
introduce new followers to your Twitter community
re-tweet other people's posts and links
reply to tweets
post quotes (use sparingly and make sure they're relevant to your audience)
ask questions

Action Point: Vary your tweets always keeping your objective in mind.

Twitter won't suit every business but as with most new technology the pain involved in getting to grips with it is short lived and soon forgotten once you start using it regularly. If you work out a good strategy, invest time learning and then stick to your plan you will know very quickly whether you are getting useful results.

Like anything new, at the beginning it is all daunting and difficult but with just 20 minutes learning a day you'll be a Twitter Pro in less than 2 weeks.

Go now and make your Twitter plan.
Contributor: Juliet Fay @

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